Freedom in Flores

Indonesia to me is one of the most amazing places on earth. I have not been everywhere, but Indonesia comes close to everything

Indonesia to me is one of the most amazing places on earth. I have not been everywhere on this planet, but Indonesia comes close to everything I would be searching for. It is as diverse as it gets and Flores and Komodo have been high on my list for many years. Traveling there is a dream coming true!

My sense of freedom comes from being able to move around the way I want to move around. Drive wherever I feel like going. Leaving anytime I feel like leaving. And stay when I believe I got to my nirvana. That feeling can only be given to me when I am on a motorbike. For Flores, my choice would always be a motorbike. To drive 1100km from Maumere to Labuanbajo, passing all of the highlights and dive deeper into the local culture, is my kryptonite.

Flores and Komodo have put memories into my brain that will last beyond my lifetime. That sounds like an impossible statement, but the people of Flores simply do that to you. I have never really met any people that were so sincere. That is why for them I created the Faces of Flores gallery. Behind each face is a beautiful story I can tell. But let me tell you the story about a guy who repairs motorbikes for a living.

As I am driving from Riung to Bajawa, I catch a flat tire. It is 10 in the morning on a Sunday and the people of this village where I am stranded all flock to their church. Kids running around, playing hide and seek, the ladies carrying food towards the church and the men standing around in small groups chitchatting about whatever. I take off my helmet and immediately catch the eyes of pretty much the entire village. “Buleh”, what foreigner means in Indonesian. The men walk up to me, shake my hand and start firing questions at me. I speak some Indonesian so the first 3 minutes I am good. Then the questions become a bit more complicated and I need to get my pen and notebook out to draw my answers.

One guy spots the flat tire. He points at the tire and takes the motorbike and starts walking. I am still chatting with the guys. I follow the guy and he puts it at a small garage, what appears to be his house. He goes inside the house and comes back in full armor to fix the bike. He asks me to sit next to him while he notices my camera. He asks me to take pictures of him. He is a handsome guy he tells me with a massive smile, and he should be a model and not a mechanic. I smile as well, but he has a point. So I take out my camera and while he starts posing, I make some shots of him. There is only one issue: my bike still has a flat tire.

I show him the pictures and he puts his thumbs up. I look at my tire and he gets the hint and starts repairing the tire. It is 11:30 in the morning and his wife has been serving tea and different fruits. Kids have joined us and ask if I join a game of football. Another guy wants to fit the penis-looking helmet of my friend and wants me to take pictures of him. And the women are standing a bit further away giggling and pointing at us, so I wave at them. The laugh and put their hand in front of their mouths while they turn their heads. That is how you know that people in this area don’t really come across foreigners much. The shyness, the curiosity and the sincerity of wanting to know everything about you makes for the best 2 hours on the island!

They guy taps me on the shoulder. He fixed my bike. He starts it, puts on the penis-shaped helmet from my friend and takes a cigarette. It’s hard to stay serious, especially when he points to his friend on the other side of the street. I don’t know if he is imitating Charlie Chaplin or another notorious historic figure with a famous mustache. At least we can all laugh about it. The guy hands me the keys, he puts his thumbs up and tells me “selemat jalan”, have a safe trip. I pay him what I owe him and some more for his hospitality. Half the village waves us goodbye and I know that next time I come back, I will bring the pictures and hand them over. He will certainly remember the occasion, just as I will keep this experience close to my heart!

Meet all the faces I met in Flores!


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